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Authors: Sergio De La Pava

Tags: #Fiction, #General

Personae (10 page)

BOOK: Personae
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NESTOR: Nothing. Couldn’t have been more wrong I guess. Meaning when I repeatedly scoffed that love at first sight was as mythical as unicorns or virtuous women.

 

LUDWIG: What are you talking about?

 

NESTOR: About those two. I change my mind maybe once a decade but these two have me doing it hourly.

 

LUDWIG: Change how?

 

NESTOR: Well surely you saw what passed between them at respective first glance. So palpable that I began to reconsider my position. But then when nothing seemed to germinate from there I remembered how you and Clarissa had shared something similar on your first meeting.

 

LUDWIG: Not true.

 

NESTOR: And so concluded that calling these admittedly charged interactions Love was highly presumptuous at best and I was safe in my earlier position. But now see for yourself. What they’re obviously experiencing now
was
apparently evident from their outset. So there you have it. Against all impediments, love at first sight. A glimpse into the future of a two always meant to be one.

 

LUDWIG: Good for them I guess.

 

NESTOR: Of course…

 

LUDWIG: What?

 

NESTOR: Well only that if I’m right about what previously passed between you two.

 

LUDWIG: You’re not.

 

NESTOR: Then it seems what we’re seeing is more like happy happenstance, happy for them anyway. Ironic too.

 

LUDWIG: If you say so.

 

NESTOR: Adam convinces you to risk your life and leave them for the benefit of the group and your absence just happens to open the door to their obvious connection.

 

LUDWIG: You mean
our
absence

 

NESTOR: Obviously if the roles had been reversed or, I would argue, even if they were to reverse now and Adam were to absent himself, that could easily be you in the breathless throes of love.

 

LUDWIG: I’d rather breathe.

 

NESTOR: Of course, (
solicitous
) I didn’t mean to suggest otherwise. Just that… this can be a lonely place. Charles has what’s left in his neurons of Linda. Clarissa and Adam now have each other. I
guess
you could argue that the spare tire’s just as important as the four that spin.

 

LUDWIG: What does that make you?

 

NESTOR: I drive, or else I get dizzy.

 

LUDWIG: I’ll be all right Nestor, but thanks for the concern.

 

(
Clarissa
notices
them.
)

 

CLARISSA: Guys! You’re back! What news if any?

 

(
Ludwig
looks
at
Nestor
who
smiles
but
doesn’t
respond.
)

 

CLARISSA: Well?

 

LUDWIG: Um…

 

CLARISSA: Nestor?

 

(
He
doesn’t
respond
so
Clarissa
looks
to
Ludwig.
)

 

What’s with him?

 

LUDWIG: Oh, probably that vow of silence you made him take.

 

CLARISSA: Goodness. Fine, you can disavow your silence. Now what happened?

 

(
Nestor
crosses
his
arms
and
ruefully
nods
no.
Adam
and
even
Charles
to
the
extent
possible
have
joined
Clarissa
in
hopeful
expectation.
)

 

LUDWIG: I don’t think he’s going to spill it.

 

CLARISSA: You then. What did you find?

 

LUDWIG: Well (
hesitant
) it’s not easy to explain.

 

(
Nestor
hits
him
on
shoulder.
)

 

But I will say this: (
clears
his
throat
) the trajectory of human progress has rarely if ever formed a straight line.

 

(
Their
interest
is
piqued.
)

 

If, as some suspect, we are what’s left of humanity then nothing short of cosmological propulsion has landed this burden on our lap. History will record our reaction but more crucial than that our reaction will determine history. Not just its content but whether such an entity will even endure.

 

At issue is what will become of this grand edifice. We built it up and into the sky in the hopes of reaching heaven and now as it crumbles down around us we find that this great distance we thought we’d traveled can close in an instant. So what now? Because a person flung backward by adversity can run away in the direction flung, meekly stay put, or slowly, grudgingly, inch-by-inch until foot-by-foot begin the journey back whence she came to resume the struggle.

 

I won’t pretend that what Nestor and I learned is encouraging in the classic sense, he loves and respects you all too much for that, but it does have the power to encourage in this respect. In the agency of Man lies his majesty. What will become of us is largely a function of us. I urge you to take action as it is only in acting that the actor becomes fully human. A second act is guaranteed no one and in this respect it is often the lone individual, not the nebulous group, who must stand firm as a host of tragic natural and other forces array against her.

 

So we concede that we may not have secured satisfactory answers but we did succeed in narrowing what was an infinite universe of possibilia into primary and irreducible questions.

 

What is a question anyway? That’s my question. Why do we question, that is the true question. Why not content ourselves with what we know, which is considerable, and leave undisturbed the great sea of the unknown? Damn, the word quest is built right into the evil thing.

 

Who should go? How soon? Is their success and glory as assured as it seems? Why can’t we all go? Why does one person get all the good fortune and why is it so urgent that they leave as soon as possible? They’re you have it. Now let’s answer.

 

ADAM: The hell’s he talking about?

 

CHARLES: And who the hell suspects we’re all that’s left?

 

NESTOR: I think he’s saying it’s up to Adam, all our hopes rest on him.

 

CLARISSA: What happened to your vow?

 

NESTOR: Translating doesn’t count, you know that. More importantly, the man makes a lot of sense. Are we to believe that Adam’s late arrival, with that name, is mere coincidence? He was formed out of dust to save us and the time is undoubtedly now.

 

LUDWIG: Actually I was thinking Clarissa.

 

(
Nestor
looks
at
Ludwig
with
genuine
surprise.
)

 

CLARISSA: Thinking me for what?

 

LUDWIG: For our hero, or I suppose heroine.

 

ADAM: No way, it’s too dangerous. Nestor’s right, I should be the one to go.

 

LUDWIG: What’s required here really is a woman’s touch Adam. I’m only thinking of what’s optimal.

 

CLARISSA: I’ll go, no problem, but I do want to know what that entails.

 

NESTOR: Maybe you’re both right. Clarissa can go and be the primary but Adam will escort her for protection.

 

LUDWIG: No! I mean… I think it’s clear that this… is a one-man, uh woman… job’s what I’m saying.

 

CLARISSA: Protection? I think having to worry about protecting Adam would just get in my way.

 

ADAM: I think he meant I would do the protecting.

 

CLARISSA: But what’s the job exactly? How about we start there?

 

NESTOR: The job was and is ever thus: to shed restrictions and rise.

 

CLARISSA: How about less lyricism and more clumsy exposition please. The sun is sinking.

 

NESTOR: Very well. It appears we’ve found a way out. Those of you familiar with this place will from experience understand the key use of the word
appears
.

 

ADAM: So let’s go, what are we waiting for?

 

CLARISSA: No, I understand. I have to go alone. I’ll gather my things and maybe prepare some closing remarks.

 

ADAM: You mean departing remarks.

 

CLARISSA: Yeah, what you said.

 

(
She
leaves.
)

 

ADAM: I’m at a total loss here.

 

NESTOR: Would that were true. (
aside
) You haven’t yet begun to lose.

 

ADAM: Can someone please explain what is happening to me?

 

NESTOR: I believe someone has been looking for just that opportunity. Someone, I mean Ludwig?

 

(
Ludwig
and
Adam
move
in
the
general
direction
of
Clarissa
leaving
Nestor
to
sit
next
to
Charles.
)

 

NESTOR: I hope you’re not too upset Charles. I certainly argued on your behalf but this democracy thing’s a real bitch huh?

 

CHARLES: Whatever are you talking about?

 

NESTOR: You know, about who gets to go. The fairer sex and all that, though if you ask me there hasn’t been anything fair about sex from the get. I mean you see the way those two look at her and of course there was never any question which way she would vote.

 

I must confess I took my oratorical skills for greater than they proved. After all I persist in my belief that the merits were on our side and if a truly gifted rhetorician should succeed quite independent of his position’s inherent vice or virtue what do we make of my failure to convince on behalf of the meritorious side?

 

Honor thy aged until they cease to age, that’s how I was raised. So obviously when it came time to decide who gets to go I immediately lowered my lever for you. The problem is Ludwig and Adam seemingly raised theirs for Clarissa.

 

It’s a common misconception and those two are nothing if not common. If y’aint got nothing you got nothing to lose and therefore if you have little, in your case little of what we’ll call future life, you by extension have little to lose. Of course you and I know different.

 

The reason the widow giving alms is so impressive is because it’s infinitely harder to part with what’s scarce right? Anyone can watch their surfeit dwindle slightly but try and wrest that last piece of bread from the street urchin and see where that gets you. By that analysis, if staying in this room is an invitation to Death, as seems clear, then it’s actually you who has the most to lose.

 

You who’ve witnessed the unspooling of a long, rich life. Who’ve tasted every possible permutation of the bitter and the sweet. Only you among us truly understands what all can be lost.

 

So I argued and so was I overruled by my insensate audience. There are some who would argue a form of civil disobedience at this point. Alas I cannot bring myself to say what reflexively forms on my tongue, that you may rightly controvert an authority derived solely from numbers in a matter of such importance.

 

The good news I suppose is that if you mindlessly accede to their decision you likely won’t live to regret it. I mean that you won’t have the sensation of realizing you were wrong if you stay so the decision to stay would be senseless in a sense. Either way don’t blame them Charles, they’re just kids.

 

(
Charles
sits
up
but
says
nothing.
Nearby
Ludwig
is
done
informing
Adam
and
moves
toward
Clarissa,
who
is
preparing
to
leave,
before
pausing
to
think
out
loud.
)

BOOK: Personae
4.66Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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